Last year seemed to witness a tipping point. Suddenly, developments that had been bubbling away for years appeared to have reached a level of maturity in terms of technical capability, if not (so far) price. This is especially true in the area of virtual reality as experienced through headsets such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, which makes it possible to ‘walk around’ a three dimensional representations of a person or object.
Another development is artificial intelligence. At Georgia Tech university in the USA students have their questions answered by a very helpful online assistant called Jill Watson — who happens to be a bot. Another interesting area is the use of artificial intelligence to help police analyse crime scenes in a fraction of the time it would usually take. How long will it be before we see bots helping parents, and AI being used to make sense of the mass of data that is produced daily in schools and, consequently, across a local authority or MAT?
On the subject of data, we cannot ignore the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force in May this year. Groupcall has been running training days to help institutions prepare for GDPR, and is running a seminar about it at Bett. This will take place on Wednesday, 24 January at 12:30 – 13:05 in the Bett Arena.
The question that arises, however, is this: given that the Bett Show is about education technology, is it appropriate for, say, the senior leaders in a MAT to attend? Surely all a MAT has to do is give one teacher the task of going on behalf of all the schools in the trust, and then report back?
This argument is not entirely compelling though. Given that the Governors or Trustees of a school are responsible for what the school does (see quote below), it does make sense for them to attend the conference.
“The trustees are responsible for the same three core governance functions performed by the governing body in a maintained school: setting the direction, holding the headteacher to account and ensuring financial probity.”
From Governance in multi-academy trusts, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/458632/governance-in-multi-academy-trusts_Sept2015.pdf
What senior leaders should go for is the following:
- To get a feel for the direction in which education in general is moving, and to evaluate the MAT’s strategic plan in the light of that. For example, more and more functionality is available on mobile devices such as phones and tablets. These may be cheaper and more flexible than desktop computers, but in the light of GDPR how secure are they as far as the data available through them is concerned?
- Are there opportunities to work smarter? More and more applications ‘talk’ to each other these days, and senior leaders are in an excellent position to take a ‘helicopter view’ of how different ones might work together for the common good rather than becoming too focused on a particular device.
- As already stated, Groupcall is running a seminar about the GDPR. It will be worth going to that not only for the information, but to meet other senior leaders who are facing the same challenges as you are.
- And on the subject of meeting people, what better opportunity to meet the people behind the scenes at Groupcall and see demonstrations of products, and even discuss any improvements you’d like to see in existing products?
The bottom line is that education technology is about more than technology. By going to Bett you will be able to have much more useful conversations with your leaders of computing and technical support teams.
Terry Freedman is the author of Education Conferences: Teachers’ Guide to Getting the Most out of Education Conferences (such as the Bett Show). You can find out more about it here: https://www.ictineducation.org/education-conferences